The signed Palestinian Human Rights Organisations condemn the unlawful and arbitrary arrest and imprisonment of human rights defender and Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) coordinator, Ramy Shaath, and who also played a pivotal role in Egypt’s process of democratic transition. Ramy has been in a Kafkaesque state of pre-trial detention since 5 July 2019 on unfounded charges of “aiding a terrorist group in achieving its objectives” due to his peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression and association.
As reported by Amnesty International, on 5 July 2019 at 12:45am, at least a dozen heavily armed members of the Egyptian police force raided the Shaath family’s home, seizing computers, hard drives, and mobile phones, arresting both Ramy and his wife, Celine Lebrun-Shaath, a French national. Following his arrest, Ramy was held in custody at an unknown location and was hid for 36 hours, while the police force denied knowledge of his detention. During this period, Ramy was accused by Egypt’s Supreme State Security Prosecution Office of being involved, along with 105 other individuals including politicians, students, and journalists, of working “in cooperation with the Muslim Brotherhood to undermine the state”. As he has not been formally charged, he has been detained on a recurring 15-day detention, supposedly pending investigations, for the renewal of which he is brought before a court every two weeks.
No evidence was presented by the Prosecutor except a secret file compiled by Egypt’s infamous National Security Agency. However, a 2015 Court of Cassation judgement ruled that such files are immaterial if presented as evidence on their own; effectively confirming that Ramy was arrested and has been detained under false pretences. The conditions of Ramy’s detention has been anything but humane. His first month of detention in Torah prison was spent in a cell of approximately 30 square meters with about 30 other detainees, some of whom suffered illnesses.
Following Ramy’s detention, Egyptian authorities deported his wife, Celine, from Egypt, after refusing to allow her to contact the French embassy. Authorities confiscated her phone and laptop, forced her to buy a ticket to France, and held her in custody until he flight was scheduled to leave. At no point during this time was she given any explanation or grounds for her deportation, despite the fact that she had been a legal resident in Egypt since March 2012.
The targeting of Ramy Shaath and his wife represent an escalation in the attack against supporters of the BDS movement. This trend includes legal action being taken against municipal cities following the boycott of Israel in Spain, activists subjected to criminal charges of hatred and discrimination in France, equating BDS and anti-Semitism by the German Bundenstag, the passing of anti-BDS laws across the United States, the refusal of entry into the US of BDS founder Omar Barghouti, and the 2017 Amendment No. 28 to the Entry into Israel Law, which allows Israeli authorities to refuse entry into the territory Israel controls on the grounds of participation or support for BDS. All of these actions are in contravention of international human rights law, particularly the universally-recognized rights of freedom of expression, association, and participation in public affairs.
Ramy’s arrest violates the rights to be free from arbitrary arrest or detention, freedom of expression, and participation in public affairs, enshrined in Articles 9, 19, and 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, respectively. Further, his treatment and containment in inhumane conditions amounts to a violation of the prohibition on cruel and inhuman treatment, found in Article 7 of the Convention Against Torture (CAT). Furthermore, Ramy’s arrest and detention is an example of a prolonged campaign of enforced disappearances perpetrated by the Egyptian authorities.This campaign targeting bloggers, activists and critics under the pretext of counterterrorism and state-of-emergency laws, violates the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Meanwhile, Celine’s treatment and deportation amount to denials of Article 13 of the CAT and Article 12 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, as well as Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, respectively.
In light of this, the signed Palestinian Human Rights Organisations call upon:
- Egypt to immediately release Ramy Shaath, as well as all of those imprisoned under similar pretenses;
- Egypt to allow the safe return of Celine Lebrun-Shaath to her home in Cairo;
- Egypt to ensure the protection of the rights to freedom of expression and association, free from arbitrary intervention by the State and its agencies;
- All States to condemn and intervene to bring to an end the practice of enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, cruel and inhumane treatment, targeting human rights defenders and activists, particularly in Egypt;
- Relevant international bodies to intervene to stop the targeting of human rights defenders and activists peacefully opposing Israel’s occupation and practices against the Palestinian people;
- All States to repeal oppressive anti-BDS laws, and respect the right to freedom of expression and expression enshrined under international law;
- The UN Working Groups on Arbitrary Detention, Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, and the Special Rapporteurs on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, and on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders to investigate this case, and call on the Egyptian authorities to release Ramy Shaath.
The signed Palestinian Human Rights Organizations:
- Addameer Prisoners’ Support and Human Rights Association
- Jerusalem Center for Legal Aid and Human Rights
- Hurryyat - Centre for Defense of Liberties and Civil Rights
- Badil – Resourc Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights
- Defence for Children International - Palestine Section
- Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies
 Human Rights Watch, Egypt: Release Ramy Shaath! (30 August 2019)
 Amnesty International, Egypt: Authorities Must Immediately and Unconditionally Release BDS Coordinator Ramy Shaath (29 August 2019)
 Ibid; the “Hope Plan” (State Security Case No. 930/2019) is widely seen as a catch-all case with which to imprison dissidents, activists, and political enemies of President Al-Sisi.
 Human Rights Watch (n 1)
 Amnesty (n 2)
 Al-Haq, Palestinian Civil Society Statement in Response to the German Bundestag: Anti-BDS Resolution Violates Principles of International Law, Stands against Palestinian Civil Society and Aspirations for Freedom, Justice, and Dignity (23 May 2019)
 Middle East Eye, US states are passing anti-BDS laws. But are they legal? (27 June 2019)
 Al-Haq, PHROC Condemns U.S. Entry Ban on Omar Barghouti (23 April 2019)
 Al-Haq (n 7)
 The Stop Enforced Disappearance campaign documents 1,530 instances of such acts in the period from July 2013 to August 2018, with at least 230 taking place between August 2017 and 2018. See Human Rights Watch, World Report 2018: Egypt